Thursday, July 12, 2012

After spending several days in the Zurich area exploring the origins and struggles of the Anabaptists (also called the Swiss Brethren), we headed to Bern and the Emmental region.

The city of Bern was founded in 1191 on the Aare River. The medieval streets are cobblestoned and lined with sandstone arcades. Bern has the longest stretch of such arcades in Europe--built after the great fire in the 1300s which burned most of the then-wooden town. These arcades are pleasant, cool on a hot day, and filled with shops and cafes. Highly-decorated fountains, all running with clean, fresh water, dot the city.

Bern became the capital of Switzerland in 1848, as the Confederation of cantons (essentially "states") was solidified by a joint constitution. The capital building on the Bundes Platz is strikingly handsome. It is flanked by THE Swiss Bank and THE Swiss Mint.

Churches, clock towers, elegant homes and rows of apartments dating to the 15th century are commonplace throughout the city. Bern claims Switzerland's highest Gothic cathedral. Some of the sights to see: Especially for Los Alamos friends, is Einstein's apartment where he developed his theory of relativity. Down at the river is the Bear Pit. The tradition is that the founder of the city in 1191 chose the name and the symbol (the German word for bear is "Bern") for what he intended to be a strong city. In the 1500s live bears were kept in an old moat closer to the center of town. Today this is the only  place in Bern where live bears are kept. And of course, you have to go to the cathedral.

It is possible that the Anabaptist movement in this area emerged independently from the Swiss Brethren in Zurich. Hans Jutzi alluded to this in his comment that the movement resembled more of a "spiritual awakening" in the whole region. Anabaptists seem to have appeared in Bern by 1525.

Bern was particularly severe in its reaction to the Anabaptists. A harsh edict was issued in 1527 making it illegal not to baptize your babies, to conduct "believers' baptism", to meet as a "church" apart from the state church, and to listen to Anabaptist teachings. Between 1529 and 1571 at least forty executions of Anabaptists are documented in the city. At one point (around 1659) Dutch Mennonites petitioned Bern authorities to cease the persecutions. In response, the Bernese authorities intensified their efforts to hunt down, imprison, banish and/or execute Anabaptists. Refugees fled the area for Germany and especially the Palatinate region. The campaign against the heretics continued until the mid-1700s.

City streets lined with the sandstone arcades built in the 1400s.

The arcades, on both sides of the street, hold shops and cafes of all sorts.

The famous (?) clock tower.

Attention Los Alamos friends: Einstein's apartment.

"In this house Albert Einstein in the years 1903 - 1905 created his basic (or groundbreaking) treatise of (or about) the theory of relativity."

The German and English plaque over the the German engraving. Einstein, born in Germany, became a Swiss citizen in 1901 and an American citizen in 1940.

One of many figures seen on the wall above the streets.

I love the little roofs built over all the chimneys and other roof penetrations. This is standard.

Bears in the Bear Pit, of all things. The symbol of Bern.

The Bundes Platz. The intermittent fountains were impressive.

 THE Swiss Bank

THE Swiss Mint.

Looking at Old Town and the old bridge from the river. The spire is over an old church foundation that was build in 1259.

The front door of the Cathedral.

Very ornate carvings depicting heaven and hell (The Last Judgment) over the door.

Gotta get me one of those pulpits.

And maybe one of those organs, too.

The cathedral tower--over 300 feet of it. 

So, I climbed all the way up the cathedral tower. Tallest one in Switzerland--why wouldn't I? Almost 300 steps in the spiral stair case. Took pictures along the way.

Gargoyles way up on the tower. Who would see all this detail so far up . . . . . ?

Looking down on the old part of town from the tower top.

Looking in the other direction from the top. If it were a clear day, you could see the Alps from here (including the Eiger and Jungfrau.)

The bells in the tower were absolutely mesmerizing. Could not get to them (they are behind the mesh screen--which is probably a good thing!) As your eyes adjust to the darkness--scant illumination comes  by indirect light from somewhere--the bells emerge from the gloom as great, hulking phantasms. You do not realize how big they are at first.

The point of this sign: to show that these monstrous bells were put in place in 1356.

Oh, yeah . . . . one more view from the top.

The fountain on the cathedral square.

This is Executioner's Square. Here the authorities put up a giant chair where the charges against criminals and and their sentences  (drowning, beheading, burning, hanging) were read publicly.
This figure, called the Executioner, is on the wall above the square (you can see him in the picture above.) Beheadings took place in this square--several Anabaptists were beheaded here for their crimes of baptizing believers and meeting as a church free from the state church. Hans Haslibacher was beheaded here--his hands and head were cut off on Oct. 20, 1571

How one feels after walking many miles on city streets.

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